Luxembourg: The European Court of Justice on Thursday dismissed long-running appeals by FIFA and UEFA over countries' right to declare their World Cup and Euro football championships flagship events that must be aired on free-to-view TV.
The ruling upholds earlier judgements supporting decisions in Britain and Belgium to prevent pay-to-view broadcasters from grabbing exclusive rights to the final tournament phases of both competitions, alongside other so-called 'crown jewel events.'
The EU's highest court sympathised with the world and European football governing bodies insofar as it held that not all matches during the tournaments need necessarily be declared priority events of major national interest.
In future, the "tournaments must be regarded as events which are, in principle, divisible into different matches or stages, not all of which are necessarily capable of being characterised as an event of major importance," the Court said.
As a consequence, countries must give detailed reasons to the European Commission -- guardian of EU business competition interests -- "justifying why they consider that the final stage of the World Cup or the Euro constitutes, in its entirety, a single event of major importance for society in the states concerned."
That leaves the door open for the rights owners at FIFA and UEFA to maximise over time the commercial returns on lesser games for instance during group phases.
However the judges concluded that Britain and Belgium were entitled to-date to ring-fence these tournaments as a whole without such detailed explanations and so rejected the appeals by FIFA and UEFA.